LBPD Police Chief Guilty of Endangering Public

By: 
Stephen Downing

On the morning of Dec. 14, 2020 a letter alleging misconduct by Chief of Police Robert Luna was filed via email with the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) by a coalition of community organizations.

The complaint, based upon a story published by the Long Beach Post, alleged that on Nov. 5 Luna, along with members of his senior command staff, ordered an indoor gathering of police officers at the Long Beach Convention Center that allowed a COVID-19 super-spreader event to take place.

Carlos Ovalle, executive director of People of Long Beach, and Ian Patton, executive director, Long Beach Reform Coalition, filed the personnel complaint jointly.

The full story and background of the incident orchestrated by the chief published by the Beachcomber on Dec. 17 can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/lbpd-event-called-assault-healthsafety-community.

The completed personnel investigation conducted by CPCC investigators as a result of the coalition letter was submitted to the CPCC Commission on Thursday evening, April 8.

According to a spokesperson for the Long Beach City Clerk the CPCC commissioners gave consideration to two charges involving conduct unbecoming a Long Beach police officer against the chief of police.

The Beachcomber was unable to learn the specifics or differences alleged in each of the two charges but did learn that the commissioners voted 10/0 to sustain charge #1 and 7/3 to sustain charge #2.

Both allegations arose from the same event.

In an interview with CPCC Manager Patrick Weithers prior to the CPCC hearing the Beachcomber attempted to learn the manner in which Chief Luna was interviewed for the investigation, in that CPCC investigators are prohibited from interviewing sworn officers.

Weithers acknowledged that his investigators cannot interview sworn LBPD officers, sit in on interviews or ask follow-up questions based upon review of recorded statements provided by internal affairs investigators but declined to provide information as to the investigative method by which the CPCC investigation was conducted or how the chief’s interview was obtained.

Prior to the hearing, Ovalle filed a statement via eComment with the CPCC commissioners stating: “I am gravely concerned about the seriousness of the investigation. When I was called by Mr. Weithers following my complaint against Chief Luna to the CPCC, he and the investigator were asking questions that I felt they should be asking any of the 300 or so police officers present at the super spreader event, and of course Chief Luna himself.

“Based on past CPCC performance I have my doubts as to the ability of the Commission to perform the work it is tasked with and of the validity of the commission itself. I hope you'll prove me wrong.”

Ovalle concluded his statement to the commission, writing: “Clearly the super spreader event happened. Clearly a number of police officers came down with COVID. Clearly Chief Luna was present as were a number of senior staff. Why, in light of the pandemic and of the directives issued by the Health Department did the leadership condone, and perhaps directly order, the mask-less event? Chief Luna in dereliction of duty put his officers and the public they serve at risk.”

Upon learning of the CPCC commissioner’s findings and recommendation made to City Manager Tom Modica, Ovalle told the Beachcomber, “One would hope “conduct unbecoming an officer” would be grounds for dismissal from the PD, particularly for a chief of police who ought to be held to a higher standard by virtue of his leadership role, more so by his blatant disregard for the health and safety of those charged with ensuring our safety.”

Ian Patton, responded to the Beachcomber’s request for comment stating: “The Long Beach Reform Coalition is very pleased that for once Chief Luna is being held responsible for his actions in this city. Too often we see a culture of impunity in Long Beach City Hall, but this time the photographs didn't lie. They told a damning story about the way COVID has been treated by Long Beach officialdom, which could not be ignored.

“Unfortunately, Chief Luna did not take COVID-19 seriously because City Hall has not taken it seriously, on an epidemiological level. That is very different from a political level, where actions are only for show. Over the last year, we have undervalued our own Health Department and capabilities to evaluate up-to-date information for the purposes of planning, businesses reopening/re-closing, and city personnel protocols.

“Tragically, those strict protocols were needed most by our law enforcement personnel, who are supposed to be serving the public on our streets, rather than serving up disease. That they were disseminating a respiratory contagion is not so much the fault or responsibility of the rank and file as it is their leadership. The blame falls squarely on the Chief for an utter, incomprehensible failure of leadership.

Patton concluded his response with a look back on past LBPD misconduct, stating: “Following the TigerText scandal, the Councilmember Pearce special treatment scandal, the scandalous undermining of the CPCC itself in the past, the history of allowing the LB Police Officers Association's influence to run roughshod over the needs and rights of the residents, the tens of millions of dollars in pay outs for police abuse of force and wrongful death, and the unchecked rioting and burning of downtown last May 31st, the fact that Chief Luna is still employed at the Long Beach Police Department is difficult to comprehend. We hope that, at least for this most recent failure, the consequences are real and include a full airing before the City Council.”

Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica has final authority as to both the classification of the charges against Luna as well as the administration of discipline should he agree with the commissioners and sustain the charges.

On April 12 the Beachcomber asked Modica’s spokesperson via text to provide the city manager’s evaluation of the CPCC findings, his anticipated adjudication of the misconduct allegations and the disciplinary action, if any, that he believes to be proportional to the misconduct if he upholds the findings of the CPCC commissioners.

[Updated April 16 below]

On April 15 the city manager published an official statement stating that “there was a misinterpretation of the information relayed to the Beachcomber reporter from the Office of the City Clerk.”

The statement did not deny the sustained findings of the CPCC commissioners as reported here but rather stated that finding recommendations of the CPCC is not publicly available and that the city clerk does not participate in the CPCC closed session meeting or have knowledge of the commissioners finding recommendations.

The Beachcomber stands by the information reported in this story.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

 

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Comments

I agree with Mr.Patton, why is COP Luna still employed with this city? This COP has has shown time and time again that he is too corrupt, unethical and incompetent to be the leader of the LBPD. It's time to go! this time he cant cover up his miscount, lies and incompetence its all in the photos. His lying statement that the photo was taken during a training exercise, it was not, he called in these officers for the photo days later, putting these officer and LB citizen at risk. He is a lier! how do we expect the front line officers to be honest when the COP is a lier. Talk about leading by example. The LBPD is a criminal organization because it is lead and supported by unethical people with in this city. Like I said before, the new DA needs to investigate this PD and begin a federal investigation. Why does the LB citizen allow this to happen. SMH

Why is Chief Luna still employed in Long Beach? I've been asking that question for almost 20 years. Chief Luna lied to me and fellow Belmont Shore Residents on the record while in City Manager West's office about police staffing in Belmont Shore and yet nothing was done about it. It was swept under the rug like every other police misconduct issue.

Nothing will change in LBPD until Luna is fired and an honest Chief with integrity is hired from outside the ranks.

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